Going by the past, road to North Korea’s denuclearisation is littered with failure


Bill Clinton offered oil and reactors. George W. Bush mixed threats and aid. Barack Obama stopped trying after a rocket launch. While Seoul and Washington welcomed Pyongyang’s declaration on Saturday to suspend further intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and shut down its nuclear test site, the past is littered with failure.
A decades-long cycle of crises, stalemates and broken promises gave North Korea the room to build up a legitimate arsenal that now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental ICBMs. The North’s latest announcement stopped well short of suggesting it has any intention of giving that up.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday to kick off a new round of high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang. The inter-Korean summit could set up more substantial discussions between Mr. Kim and President Donald Trump, who said he plans to meet the despot he previously called “Little Rocket Man” in May or June.
A look at previous negotiations with North Korea and how the currently planned talks between Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington took shape.
Rewind to 1994
The Clinton administration in October 1994 reached a major nuclear agreement with Pyongyang, ending months of war fears triggered by North Korea’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and convert its stockpile of nuclear fuel into bombs.
Under the “Agreed Framework,” North Korea halted construction of two reactors the United States believed were for nuclear weapons production in return for two alternative nuclear power reactors that could be used to provide electricity but not bomb fuel, and 5,00,000 metric tons of fuel oil annually for the North.
The deal was tested quickly. North Korea complained about delayed oil shipments and construction of the reactors, which were never delivered.
The United States criticized the North’s pursuit of ballistic missile capability, demonstrated in the launch of a two-stage rocket over Japan in 1998.

The Agreed Framework further lost political support in Washington with the inauguration of Mr. Bush, who in his first State of the Union address in January 2002 grouped North Korea with Iran and Iraq as parts of an “axis of evil.”

The deal collapsed for good months later after U.S. officials confronted North Korea over a clandestine nuclear program using enriched uranium. Washington stopped the oil shipments and Pyongyang restarted its nuclear weapons program.


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